Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people;
once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.
1 Peter 4:10
Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.
“Mercy!” An exclamation of surprise or fear.
Mercy—a word that radiates compassion, grace, charity, forgiveness, humanity, tender-heartedness, kindness, liberality, or generosity.
Mercy as gift—the descriptor of the gift of our God who created the world and universe as we know it and all of humanity who live in it.
Mercy—the descriptor of both what we humans have received from God our creator—this compassion, grace, charity, forgiveness, humanity, tender-heartedness, kindness, liberality, generosity—and which we now have to shape our lives and share with those who inhabit this planet with us.
A year ago this weekend, my wife Bonita and I spent a surprise weekend
at the Oregon coast in a place where we love to go—an unintended gift of caution leading up to what was to come. A few days after we returned, we worshipped at a midweek Lenten service. It was the last time we (and other worshippers in our congregation) worshipped in our church right up to the present moment.
Most of us were stunned by how quickly the pandemic descended upon us.
Even today when I stop for a moment to consider what has happened to us, I’m still stunned, trying to make sense of it, as I suspect many of you are also.
I nominate “mercy” and “living mercifully” as the word and way of life for this year and time. True, you and I have not always lived up to the mercy we have received. We can all rattle off a long list of examples of how we have not acted mercifully in this time and many others have not shown mercy either. But there is still time: we can redeem “mercy” yet!
For example, consider this: “mercy” weaves its way through all of the Bible texts for this coming 3rd Sunday in Lent. There are the Laws of Love in the 10 commandments (Exodus 20) that show us how to live a merciful life. Psalm 19 testifies to how the grandeur of God’s mercy was imprinted upon the creation itself. In 1 Corinthians 1 (18-25), Paul describes how mercy itself emerges from Jesus’ death on the cross that became what empowers our faith even when living that life (mercifully) seems foolish and weak. And behind the exchange (John 2) between Jesus and the Jewish leaders is Jesus’ declaration that (as David Lose notes) “his (Jesus’) body—his physical incarnation, life, death, resurrection, ascension and gift of the Holy Spirit—was sufficient and is sufficient to mediate God’s grace and mercy. Jesus is the one who introduces us to the parental heart of God, the one who makes the unknowable God knowable and approachable.”
Merciful living is faithful living as a follower of Jesus!
So, I suggest: Let’s give mercy a chance! Where—today, next week, next month, and beyond—do you see opportunities as you go about your daily life to be compassionate, show grace, charity, forgiveness, reveal your humanity, display tender-heartedness, live kindly, with liberality and generosity? What better way is there to lead out of a pandemic than with mercy?!
“Mercy!”—whether said with affirmation, surprise or trepidation—it’s still the best way to show the world that our God lives and is taking care of all of us!
O merciful God, continue to hold all of us in your care and love. Help us to learn from you and each other that there is no better way to live the life you give us than with compassion, grace, charity, forgiveness, humanity, tender-heartedness, kindness, liberality, and generosity. Thank you for sending Jesus to show us the way. Amen.